Matrimonial property law

The law of matrimonial property regulates what belongs to whom during the marriage and how the wealth is to be divided up in the case of divorce or death. Three options are available:

  • Participation based on acquisition
  • Community of property
  • Separation of property

If no matrimonial property agreement has been concluded, spouses are subject to the provisions of the ordinary system of matrimonial property based on acquisition. An extraordinary system of matrimonial property (that is, community of property or separation of property) can be agreed upon in a matrimonial property agreement. Within clearly regulated legal limits, the system of property and personal matters can be individually adapted in a matrimonial property agreement. A matrimonial property agreement can be concluded or changed before getting married or at any time during the marriage, providing that both spouses are in agreement.
Official authentication is necessary for a matrimonial property agreement for both marriages and registered partnerships (Art. 184 ZGB). That means it is necessary to go to a notary.

Participation based on acquisition (ZGB art. 196 ff)

In the case of participation based on acquisition, the man and woman basically have separate wealth. However, in the case of death or divorce, i.e. when the system of matrimonial property is dissolved, savings made during the marriage are divided in half and distributed to the woman and man. The property that each party owned prior to getting married, as well as gifts and inheritances, remain special property and do not become part of the acquisition. (Liability for debts, see Money).

Community of property (ZGB art. 221 ff)

Community of property needs to be agreed in a matrimonial property agreement. A distinction is made between the wealth of the woman, the wealth of the man and joint wealth. The matrimonial property agreement regulates what belongs to whom in individual cases. When the system of matrimonial property is dissolved, the joint wealth is divided up.

Separation of property (ZGB art. 247 ff)

Separation of property can be established through a matrimonial property agreement. If one side so desires, it can also be brought into force in court - or in the case of certain preconditions - against the will of both spouses. There is no joint wealth in the case of separation of property. The woman and the man remain sole proprietors of their own wealth.

Important exception for binational couples

As a binational couple, you have the possibility of subjecting your marriage to the law of matrimonial property of the native country of the foreign partner. An agreement of this kind must be made in writing. 

If you require further information on the consequences of the individual systems of matrimonial property, you will find  on  the "Ehe- und Erbrecht - ein Leitfaden für Braut- und Eheleute" (Matrimonial law and law of succession - a guideline for engaged and married couples) brochure of the Federal Department of Justice and Police. This brochure also contains information on the law of succession.
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